National Convention on the European Union (NKEU) and the representatives of the academia and the civil society urge the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Serbia to withdraw the draft Bylaw on scientific and other research relevant for national defense and on the procedure and conditions for issuing permits for carrying out such research together with foreign entities or contracted by foreign entities.
This Bylaw by hindering academic freedom and the right to freedom of expression, violates the Constitution of our country, but also the European Convention of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Bylaw imposes restrictions that do not exist in in democratic societies and through which all academic research is impeded in Serbia, as well as international academic cooperation and hinders the work of business entities. It threatens the democratic control over the security sector, and treats security as a state, and not a public good, and reduces it to defense and puts it under the Army’s jurisdiction.
The text of the Bylaw is contrary to the strategic commitment to accessing the EU and the participation in improving international security in cooperation with other legitimate actors in the policy of defense, as academia, civil society and other state institutions both from home and abroad.
The Draft Bylaw infringes the freedom and the autonomy of research that is necessary for monitoring the progress of the EU accession negotiations, and for which the organizations gathered in the National Convention on the EU are mandated under the Serbian Government’s procedures on the negotiations. Moreover, the Draft Bylaw threatens the independent research in the area of security studies that is a prerequisite for democratic control of the security institutions.
In addition to the violations of the rights, it is extremely important to note that the application of this Bylaw would prevent, or at least substantially impede, international scientific and research cooperation of universities, scientific institutes, state institutions and civil society organizations from Serbia, which is financed from foreign funds. For example, the Draft Bylaw establishes the obligation of all stakeholders to submit to the Ministry of Defense the public opinion surveys questionnaires (prior to conducting the survey) for research that will be potentially financed from abroad, e.g. through academic research programs of the EU – “Horizon 2020″. This is not in accordance with the principles of Chapter 25 – Science and Research, that aims at the creation of a single European research area in which researchers, as well as scientific and technological knowledge circulate freely, and the involvement of scientists from Serbia in international projects.
Instead of the pre-set restrictions, the Government should devise ways to enhance domestic funding for research, through increasing the budget for science, and through a transparent competition for resources intended for civil society organizations from the budget line 481. In addition, defining of priority areas to improve the national security and defense is possible only on the basis of high-quality, timely and professional research, in which the broadest spectrum of stakeholders from academia, civil society and the business sector can participate.
National Convention on the EU urges faculties, scientific institutes, businesses and business associations, the media, as well as civil society organizations to support the initiative for the withdrawal of this disputable draft Bylaw. The National Convention on the EU brings together more than 600 civil society organizations gathered in Working groups to follow the course of negotiations and the implementation of reforms in the 35 negotiation chapters.